with Meaning

A.K.A. All Team, Off Site, Annual Meeting, All Hands, Board Retreat, Staff Retreat, Team Retreat, Corporate Retreat, Organizational Retreat, Your Cool Custom Name Goes Here, etc...

noun: a quiet or secluded place in which a group of people can reset and think clearly.

Why invest in a retreat?

We live in an incredibly busy culture. Everyone has experienced ‘The Battle Of The Calendars’ when trying to arrange a meeting or event. This busyness means that lots of things get done. It also means that lots of things get left undone. Important conversations get put on the back burner. We lose track of why we’re doing this work. Things expressed in yesterday’s conflict quickly get overtaken or added to by what’s said dealing with today’s crisis. In the chaotic rush of it all, appreciation or acknowledgement falls by the wayside. The great intentions of our mission statement get trampled or buried. Expectations are ignored or dismissed. And, as the old Irish saying goes, “Expectation is just resentment waiting to happen!” We end up living in the middle of a tangled mess. It’s exhausting.

When faced with any kind of mess there’s a deep value in taking a step back and asking the question, “How did we get to this point?” and then “Where do we go from here?” The most common observation I hear when working with a team that invites me to facilitate a retreat is, “We just never have the chance to have these kind of conversations in the office”. The way we untangle confusion and miscommunication is by being willing to step back, ask and engage with the right questions and to listen. That takes patience, persistence and a willingness to press pause. If you get lost out in the mountains the first things you should do is to stop. Next is to try to find a familiar landmark. More often than not this involves retracing your steps. Teams that find the courage to take a look at a complex and confusing mess and who recognize the value of engaging with creative tension are rewarded with insights, a greater appreciation of each other’s contributions, clarity about what each person needs to do their work, the challenges they face and the barriers getting in the way of shared goals. Such reflective spaces should never simply be an everyday workplace conversation in a different location. They can offer so much more when they are designed and facilitated with the above in mind.

    "Why" at a glance:

    • Reflect on purpose
    • Untangle and recharge the team
    • Increase engagement
    • Reset the good feeling
    • Reduce stress
    • Uncover new ideas
    • Have fun together
    • Build trust
    • Increase teamwork
    • Increase morale
    • Create alignment
    • Build collaboration
    • Celebrate successes
    • Learn from failures
    • Rediscover passions
    • Train and workshop
    • Plan and set actions
    • Modify KPIs

    Employee Engagement as a "Why"

    Source: 2015, Gallup, workplace engagement in the US

    Causes of Difficulties in Organizations as a "Why"

    Source: Dana, Daniel (2005): Managing Differences: How to Build Better Relationships at Work and Home, 4th edition.

    % of Organizations Investing in Retreats

    Source: 2017, Robert Half Management Resources

    What are the steps to building an awesome retreat?

    Steps to Holding a Retreat with Meaning

    Approximate ratio of time required for each step

    Ready to start designing in-house?

    The following is a list of starting topic areas to plan for a great meeting. You can also find the complete Meeting # 1 version as a printable PDF here.

    1. What are the goals/objectives of the retreat?
      • What opportunities and problems exist that make people want to meet now?
      • What does the group need to accomplish to make the retreat a success?
      • How will we determine what the entire group needs?
      • How important is getting pre-retreat input from everyone that will meet?
    2. Who will attend the retreat?
    3. Are there past meeting agendas for this group that can be learned from?
    4. What will be the general retreat agenda and schedule?
    5. What will be the facilitator’s role?
    6. What are the next steps in this planning process?

    Ready to start designing, and would like some outside support? Contact us here.

    What are the costs of holding a meaningful retreat?

    There are number of ways at looking at the costs, and the value proposition, with respect to a retreat. There is the internal time you will take to design, meet and implement, which may be substantial; there are the lost opportunity costs associated with people not producing billable work; there are the logistical and hard costs associated with things like travel, meeting rooms, overtime pay; and there is the actual dollar cost of the checks you write to the facilitator, and potentially other outside support. What then must happen is a comparison be made to the value the process will bring to the organization as a whole. The tricky part is putting a $ value on the benefits the organization will receive because there are tangible and intangible results, and they more than likely will have impact for years to come.

    One way we have seen this done is to choose a typical KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and compare a change (or no change) in that KPI to the retreat cost. It is also common to put a comparative value on a KPI and use that as a baseline. Common KPIs organizations use are; total revenue; profit; earnings per share; and operating budget - because they are easy to find and measurable. More on KPIs here. Some example calculations may look like this:

    • This project has a value of 2% of our total operating budget. So, total OPERATING BUDGET x .02 = PROJECT VALUE impact in year 1.
    • We expect this process will yield a rise in profit of 10%. So, last years PROFIT x .10 = PROJECT VALUE impact in year 1.

    How can we reduce the costs of a retreat without reducing the impact?

    There's a balancing act that goes with any type of meeting planning. What is important is to make sure you hit objectives and at the same time don't bust the budget. Consider these alternatives and questions if you're on the edge of saying no to a retreat due to budget concerns:

    • What would it take to achieve results in a smaller amount of time?
    • Are there ways to get ahead on billables/production before or after the retreat so the meeting has little impact on lost billables?
    • How local can you get with the venue to reduce travel and time costs? 
    • What logistical features like meals, fun activities, travel, can you change so they have the same or better impact but cost less?
    • Can you use an inside person or team to lead and facilitate at least some of the meeting design and implementation?

    Retreat cost ratio breakdown for a 2 day, 10 person retreat

    Estimates are for a mostly disbursed team. Costs should be lower for a mostly local team.

    Approximate costs for two day retreat*

    *based on a 10 person team - Fixed costs include: wages paid for retreat design time, meeting room, outside facilitator. Per person costs include: wages paid for retreat time, lost billables, travel/hotel/meals.

    What is the role of the retreat leader/facilitator?


    • Simplify the complex
    • Uncover & define objectives
    • Create effective agenda(s)
    • Work through all meeting logistics
    • Get the right people in the room
    • Create a learning environment
    • Get everyone to speak-up
    • Help the group focus on content
    • Help everyone hear all ideas
    • Keep the group on topic
    • Track time
    • Maintain effective discussions
    • Lean into difficult conversations
    • Minimize digressions
    • Ensure creative brainstorming
    • Capture key ideas
    • Reality check strategies
    • Help build sustainable action plans
    • Test implementation plans openly
    • Take and deliver concrete notes
    • Follow on with leaders
    • Ensure objectives are met

    Advantages of the in-house facilitator

    • they understand the organizations history and culture
    • they have a stake in the health and success of the group
    • they are on hand and easy to access
    • they are on salary so potentially less costly than hiring out
    • they have direct access to the team so can follow outcomes closely
    • they understand the resources available

    Advantages of the external facilitator

    • they are assumed to be credible
    • they may have more experience leading specialized discussions
    • people are more likely to trust their neutrality
    • they don't carry political or emotional baggage
    • they may have more experience designing and planning this type of event
    • they can afford to take more risks
    • they are paid for their efforts, so much can be asked of them

    Source: Resologics and Bens, Ingrid: Facilitation at a Glance, 4th edition, Goal/QPC 2017.

    Why work with Resologics for your meaningful retreat?

    Experience! We have led meetings of all sorts and types. For a vast majority of our proactive long-term clients we have been either the lead facilitators or heavily involved in the design through follow on activities for their retreats. Learn more about our team and how we view the world of meaningful conversations here.


    What are some alternatives to retreats?

    • Micro-Retreats: When designed well, a very short amount of time will create a lasting impact.
    • Bistros: Short, focused, facilitated dialogues around a single critical topic the team needs to work on.
    • Innovation days: Invite groups to develop and pitch ideas to help the business.
    • Town halls: These regular or semi-regular gatherings provide an opportunity to share updates and team build.
    • Quarterly strategy sessions: Gather department leaders or task forces to talk shop in a formal setting.
    • Staycation-style retreats: Managers can take their teams to a local offsite venue to brainstorm and connect.
    • Top-performer celebrations: In addition to recognizing their great work, invite star employees to submit their ideas for helping the organization grow.